Getting into Medicine

What You Need To Know To Prepare For The BMAT

I have actually taken the BMAT test twice, once last year (2019) when I applied to Medicine, but I first took it in 2016 when I was applying for my first degree (Biomedical Sciences) and I applied to Oxford, which required it. Even with three extra years of study, including two full years of university, I didn’t find the BMAT any easier. I may have actually found it harder because even more time had passed since I had studied the required scientific content. If you don’t know whether to take the UCAT and/or the BMAT, check out this post on the factors to consider when choosing medical schools.

I’m not going to lie, I found the BMAT quite hard, and even more time-pressured than the UCAT, but that’s just my experience of it. Before I scare you anymore I’m just going to get into it, so here’s my advice for preparing and taking the BMAT.

* For more resources I found useful when applying for medicine I have a post on that*

What is the BMAT?

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is an aptitude test that some universities require you to take when applying to Medicine. This year is different from previous years, as the test will only run in November, not September, and will be conducted online instead of the usual pen and paper test (if taking the exam in the UK). 

Standard registration closes on the 1st October, and the late-fee registration closes on the 15th October (make sure you regularly check the official websites for up to date information).

Test Sections

The BMAT is split into three sections:

Section 1 – Aptitude and Skills

  • 60 minutes – 35 multiple-choice questions
  • This section tests problem-solving, understanding arguments, data analysis, and inference.

Section 2 – Scientific knowledge and applications

  • 30 minutes – 27 multiple-choice questions
  • This section tests scientific knowledge that is typically taught by the age of 16 (see the Section 2 Syllabus).

Section 3 – Written Communication

  • 30 minutes – 1 written side of A4
  • This is a writing task to test your ability to develop and organise your ideas and be able to effectively and concisely communicate them.

How to Prepare Effectively

General Advice

  • Start your preparation early and most importantly BE CONSISTENT. It goes without saying that the earlier you start, the more time you have to prepare, but it also depends on how consistent you are. There’s no point doing loads of work early on but do nothing in the two weeks before the exam.
  • Start by learning the style of questions and how you’re going to approach them, but move on to working in a timed manner very quickly. Sometimes how you would normally approach a problem won’t work when under this much time pressure.
  • Make sure you’ve done at least a few full mock tests before you sit the real one. Two hours is a long time to stay focused, so you need to practice staying focused for that long.
  • KEEP TRACK of your progress. You will fluctuate a little between tests as some sets of questions are easier than others, just make sure the trend is generally improving. Track your progress for individual sections as well not just the overall score, this will help you focus on areas that require the most improvement.
  • Look on the BMAT website for past papers to familiarise yourself with the style of questions for each section. 
  • Consider using a tool such as Medify which has practice questions, tutorials for the topics you should know for section two, and essay plans for past papers.

Section 1

  • Section 1 is the longest section, but it is still quite time-pressured.
  • Work on your mental maths – some questions contain mathematical components such as algebraic formula and graphs and you don’t have a calculator, so make sure your maths skills are refreshed.
  • You will need to read quickly whilst taking important information in (similar to the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT) a good way to practice this is by reading newspapers and other articles. Look out for words that are meant to confuse or change the meaning e.g. most, least, cannot, some, except.

Section 2

  • Read the section 2 syllabus and mark off the things you know comfortably and the bits that you need to revise. When I took the BMAT I was doing a Biomedical Sciences degree, so my biology knowledge was very good, and my chemistry and maths knowledge was pretty good, but I hadn’t studied physics properly since GCSE, so this is where I had to focus most of my attention.
  • Once you know what you still have to learn, you got to start learning it, and do this in the way that works best for you, for me it’s making notes and testing myself, thankfully it’s all relatively basic concepts, so it’s more a case of memorising rather than understanding.
  • Memorise the formulae and physics equations by creating flashcards and testing yourself little and often.
  • Start doing past papers as soon as possible, learn the style of questions they ask. Just because you know a particular concept e.g. the electromagnetic spectrum and could answer a GCSE question on it, doesn’t mean that you can answer a BMAT questions on it. Don’t assume that because you did amazing on these topics at GCSE, you will do amazing at the BMAT.

Section 3

  • A good way to start preparing is to look at past paper questions and write quick essay plans for each of the questions. 
  • Then start practicing making plans and writing the actual essay within the 30 minute time frame.
  • Get friends and family to read your essays to check they make sense and haven’t got any spelling or grammatical errors. If you can, get your teachers/lecturers to check them as well.

Scheduling Your Preparation

Work back from the test date and make a list of dates that you want to have achieved certain checkpoints by. Eg.

  • 20th August – Today’s date
  • 1st September – Start doing section mocks
  • 1st October – Do, or have done, the first full mock
  • 20th October – Have done all the mocks on BMAT website
  • 4th November – TEST DATE

This is just a rough example of something you should put together in order to stay on track with your preparation. It can be super detailed, with checkpoints for nearly every day, or vaguer, like the one above. You may find that you need to adjust it slightly when you start practicing and get used to what kind of workload you can manage.

Taking the Test

Sections 1 and 2

  • Using the process of elimination is incredibly useful. Even if you can’t work out the answers quickly enough, you might be able to eliminate some of the options, meaning you have a higher chance of guessing correctly between the remaining options. 
  • Don’t be intimidated by lots of data, read the question first as you might not need to read the whole data set to answer the question. 
  • READ THE QUESTION. I actually get sick of reading this advice so I’m sorry that I had to put it in, but it is true. In section one, you’re best off reading the question, the passage, and then the answer options. If you’re struggling to work it out, use the elimination method, and if you’re still struggling, move on, there are lots of questions to get through. In section two, read the question then the answer options.
  • Regularly check the time, it can be easy to just dive right into the paper and before you know it your time is up. Work out roughly how many questions you should have done in half the time to see whether you’re staying on track.
  • If you’re really running out of time, work on the ones that you realistically have a chance of working out (questions testing your strengths) and then just guess the rest. Don’t just spend your time half-working out lots of questions.

Section 3

  • PLAN PLAN PLAN – make sure you roughly plan your essay before you start to ensure you have enough points to fill a side of A4 and that you have a good structure to your writing.
  • You get a choice of three essays to write, choose wisely. You might find one topic really interesting, but when you start writing you realise you don’t have that many points to cover, highlighting the importance of planning your essay.
  • Typically a question is composed of a quote and prompts asking you to explain the quote and provide arguments for either side, make sure you can argue both sides effectively.
  • A good timing breakdown is 
    • 10 minutes – reading the essay options, picking one, and briefly planning your points and structure (ensuring you’re covering all the sub-sections). 
    • 15 minutes – writing the essay
    • 5 minutes – read through your essay checking spelling, grammar, whether you’ve conveyed your points in a clear and concise way and that you’ve not missed anything out
    • Adjust your timings based on how long it takes you to plan or write.

After the Test

  • You’ll probably be really tired after the exam, so don’t plan anything intense for the rest of the day. Treat yourself!
  • The good news is you don’t have to long to wait for your results.
  • Try not to worry about the exam, what’s done is done, and keep your fingers crossed for your results

Best of luck!!

If you are successful in getting an interview, check out my interview tips post!


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